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Characterization of Portuguese wine styles

Açores wine region

Last but not least, to describe the region of the Azores (Figure No. 19), I can say that it is also recognized for the excellent wines produced in some of the islands that constitute the archipelago. Situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, about 1,600 kilometres from the mainland coast of Portugal, is an archipelago consisting of nine islands in three of which wine is produced: Pico, Terceira and Graciosa. The Azores Islands were colonized in the fifteenth century, when the first vines were planted, which is attributed, according to historical references, to the Franciscan friars. The vineyard, planted in "currais" for wind protection, developed well. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Carmelite monks and Franciscan friars perfected the wine techniques successfully.

Contacts with the Hanseatic League, the export through its own factory in Brazil, in addition to trade with England and Russia where Pico wine was considered the wine of the Tsars, reveal a great commercial organization.

Because they are wines produced in the three islands it is notorious the Terroir difference between wines, thus originating the three Azorean Designations of Origin. The volcanic origin of the islands and the mineral wealth of the lava soil is well expressed in the quality of its wines. Some of the vineyards are planted in small closed currais - small size properties closed by walls of volcanic stones - created by man to protect the vines from the wind and erosion - Figure No. 20 - in a similar approach to the clos of Burgundy.

Growing up among the rocks, taking advantage of existing cracks in the thin layer of basalt, the vines are protected from salty sea winds and receive the solar energy for the maturation of the clusters. Here, like in the Douro region, the land for the planting of vines is quite rough, which requires hard, heroic, but also rigorous work in maintaining its high quality.

It is easy to imagine that on the same island, wines from different currais express their Terroir differently, originating a complex set of wine on each island and each curral. In the Designation of Origin of Biscoitos - Terceira Island - a white liqueur wine called Biscoitos is produced, which results from the wine making of unique grape varieties of Biscoitos region, grown in currais; its name is attached to the stony and dark colour soil characteristics, resembling to the cookie that was used at the time of the Discoveries as bread.

The Azores region (Figures 21 and 22) is also known for its beautiful natural landscapes, favoured by the climatic conditions of the islands and natural orography, which makes it a prime tourist destination. Their wines, because they are produced in a traditional manner and maintain the preservation of the unique grape varieties of the islands, have an unrivalled value. The preserved ampelographic "treasure" of the region should be seen as a national role model for the preservation of Portuguese grape varieties.

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